I am raising an introvert. I’m also married to one.
My husband attended business school early on in our marriage. Every Thursday night they hosted a happy hour, and one Thursday I took Mike up on his invitation and joined him.
I realized why he kept inviting me when we arrived, and he awaited my typical extroverted self to take over and work my way into the crowd. He looked at me expectantly and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t going up to people and chatting away, introducing him, and running the room.
I turned to him and stated, “I’ve already done this.” (I actually graduated from the same business school 7 years earlier.) I said, “this is your event, I’m just your wife, you introduce me.” And he did.
That was a key moment in him building skills in this extroverted world, while still being true to his introverted preference. My husband has since gone on to present to boards, talk on conference stages, and help extend conversations in group settings. Though still not his preference.
I have coached a lot of introverted leaders, many seeking to build an extroverted skills set. So not surprisingly, I have tried to use my expertise in helping my son, who is highly introverted, in a similar manner. Though if you have read some past blogs like A Not So Graceful Exit, you will know my efforts have not always been welcome or successful.
What I realized while listening to my morning audio book, Quiet, is that building an extroverted skill set may not be what my son might need. It occurred to me that telling an introvert they need to build skills to function in this extroverted world might not be serving him.
Instead, I should help him recognize the natural skills he has and help him value and appreciate his natural abilities. Some of the best leaders are those that are introverted, because they know how to get the most out of the people. Some of the best innovators like Steve Wozniak and Bill Gates need to be left alone to do what they do best, think, create, and design.
My son is brilliant. He talks about things like plasma and particle physics and nuclear fusion and is researching majors like aerospace engineering. He will likely change the world because he has such a passion for discovering clean propulsion energy, whatever that means.
For those who are leading introverts or raising introverts, one of the things we need to do is create environments for introverts to do what they do best, rather than encouraging them to fit in, in an extroverted society. I told my son about the book, Quiet, and asked him if he would read it. I even said to him, “I wonder if I’ve been doing you a disservice.” And in truly introverted fashion, he simply listened without responding. But I’m going to keep listening, which is what an introvert might prefer.
Are you an introvert living in an extroverted world? Share some ways you thrive while still being you.